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Styling 101 With Julia Green

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Interior stylist Julia Green shares her styling tips

Have you ever walked into a room and been immediately wowed? Without being able to put your finger on exactly why, the room seems to hum – even when colour clashes and mixed materials suggest it shouldn’t? That, my friends, is style. Some people possess it by the bucket load: we all know someone who can effortlessly throw together an amazing look, whether it be fashion or interiors, without any consideration or planning. It just works. Then there are others who, despite every effort, just can’t quite nail it. If you fall into the latter category, fear not! I’m here to share some insider information on unlocking your inner decorating queen and creating spaces that ooze style.

CHECKLIST TIPS

On every project I style, I have a set checklist. Height, scale, colour and texture. If you tick the box on these, the room will usually feel right. But if even one is missing from the styling equation, it often won’t add up.

Playing with height is crucial so that everything doesn’t appear at the same eye level – our brain registers this as boring. Try suspending lights from ceilings and using tall standard lamps from the ground up. What goes up must come down.

Scale is equally as important. An example of this is the size of artwork relative to the wall space. If it’s too big or too small, it can lose its effect. Start by thinking about how things work spatially. Small rooms will look crowded and cluttered if chunky furniture pieces are used.

When spaces are tight, you will need to consider the scale of the furniture used. A large couch in a tiny room will feel overcrowded and leave little room for much else. Pending space, a pair of armchairs with an ottoman may be a better use of space. For visual harmony, consider how the pieces you use sit together. For instance, a fine legged chair may look clunky next to a solid couch. Likewise, high ceilings will often require large artworks to act as an anchor piece. It’s all about striking a balance.

However, it’s important to note that small does not mean you need to use doll house pieces for all components of the room. Rugs are a good example as our eye is drawn out to the perimetre, so a small rug can make a small space feel even smaller than it is! Try using this optical illusion to enlarge a small space, keeping in mind the footprint is still the same, so finer furniture or less of it, may need to be considered to allow the room to flow with traffic.

Colour is personal but can be a great ally when styling – it’s the glue that ties the room together. I like to thread it through a home, in unobvious ways, for a considered look, so that the home feels coherent. This does not mean that you use the same coloured cushion in every single space. It may mean you unsuspectingly dot the one colour in a range of accessories across a range of rooms.

Once you have the key items in place, such as furniture and art, you can draw on the existing tones and textures to link the rest of the space. Draw on colours from artworks and reference them with textiles and décor items – this helps unify a space and create a considered feel throughout.

Texture adds depth and interest to a space. A room without it can feel flat. A good example of this is on your bed. Consider adding velvet cushions or a textured throw on top of beautiful French linen. The mix of materials and textures will add interest every time.

And remember to aim for a bell curve. Our eye likes to take a journey when it comes to interior spaces, so if you look at what makes an interesting shelf, for example, it’s usually a mix of objects at different heights and shapes. Theory has it that balance is best achieved if you follow a bell curve, meaning the taller objects sit in the middle so the eye travels. Styling shelves can take a lot of time and practise, so be patient. I often find it easier to clear the decks to begin with and add one item at a time, until I feel like a good balance has been achieved.

STYLE STEALS

Style is unique and cannot be bought. Sure, there are some amazing designer pieces on the market but sometimes it’s the smallest things that can effect a space the most. Better yet, this often means not having to break the bank; there are plenty of cost-effective ways to create serious interior impact. An oldie but a goodie is to simply change up your cushions on the bed or the sofa – or both. Different colours and textures can create a completely different feel to the room.

Vintage markets, op shops and garage sales can unearth fabulous pre-loved pieces. I love hunting for ceramics and collecting coloured glass, as these pieces add interest, history, shape and colour to my décor. I also love to find retro pieces from the ’70s and mix them in with some of my more modern finds. A word of warning, though: mixing old and new can be quite an art. It tends to be about balance again. Old and new tend to suit a quirkier interior.

Greenery for the house is a must. It is what we call ‘proof of life’ in the styling game and adds a living, breathing component to a space to automatically make it feel more like home. Don’t restrict where you use them either. Suspend plants from the ceiling if shelf space is tight or use them in a pot on the floor for height and to ground a space. Every single room in my home has a plant, even the kids’ rooms. Don’t hold back, every room is fair game, and you will also be adding oxygen to the room, which is bonus!

And the most affordable trick of them all is to give tired pieces of furniture a lick of paint. My mum had an old chest of drawers that belonged to her mum, and if only those drawers could talk. Over the decades they have been reincarnated from hot pink, to yellow, stripped back to wood again, then painted white. Don’t discard old pieces when you love their inherent shape, as they can easily be reinvented. Paint is my best friend.

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

Houses are for living in, first and foremost. While you might have the best looking interior in the street, if it’s not practical it doesn’t count for much. But I’m here to tell you functionality doesn’t have to override style – the two can absolutely co-exist! Lighting is a perfect example of this. A key factor of any room, your lighting can make a strong statement, even acting as art. By identifying the spaces where direct lighting is required and those where ambient lighting is more appropriate, you can create spaces that are both fabulous and functional.

When it comes to furniture, think of how pieces will be used. As a mother I have always chosen dining chairs that wipe down rather than fabric ones, which stain easily, but I also tend to mix my chairs for more visual interest. By thinking slightly outside the square, there’s no reason you can’t create the best of both worlds.

CONFIDENCE COUNTS

Style is always subjective. What makes your heart skip a beat may not appeal to even your closest pals. But displaying your individual style will always pay dividends – especially within the home. Avoid slavishly following trends as style needs to be authentic, and those that own it will always set themselves apart from the crowd.

If you love pattern, then commit to it with confidence. Start with wallpapering one room. Depending on the room, try to introduce another pattern, whether it be on a cushion or an artwork to layer on top of the wallpaper. Pattern can be used in varying amounts. If you choose to use it as a statement, you will need to exercise restraint and make sure it is reflected in one standout item. If you love a maximal look, more is more and less is a bore. I find those that start the process often get stumped and stop. Then the room can look like an accident. It needs to be a clear decision from the outset as to whether you are a minimal or maximal kind of decorator, and then a true commitment is required to stick to that.

A home should tell the authentic story of those that live there and be layered with the things they love. After all, it’s not about pleasing anyone else; it’s about creating your own personal sanctuary. Don’t just dabble, go hard, as those that do it with conviction and confidence win. Be you, and that will be more stylish than anyone else.

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